By Jakob Kounkel
After a bit of an unexpected 2016 season under second-year varsity head coach Matt McLachlan, the Monticello Magic boys’ soccer team looks forward to another season of competition.
In the highly competitive Mississippi 8 Conference, the Magic are hoping to maintain the same routine as last year when they entered their last game undefeated in conference play, battling to secure a conference championship against the Buffalo Bison.
McLachlan would like to keep his team at the top of the standings for a second consecutive year. His confidence in his team may be well-placed, as the entire defense returns, including goalie Jacob Johnson. These aren’t just any returning players, though — these are key players on the best defensive soccer team in Monticello history. A solid core defense has been the staple of a slew of championship teams at every level, and will probably be the most consistent part of the team — a crutch to lean on when things aren’t going well on the offensive side of the ball.
As for the offensive side of the field, McLachlan doesn’t seem to be too worried about players stepping into bigger roles. The Magic lost some offensive threats to graduation, but senior goal scorer Elmer Escobar, a player who has seen vast improvement over the off-season, may be able to step in and find the back of the net this season. McLachlan has also rostered three sophomores: Lucas Johnson, Brenden Fee and Jacob Keller. Keller was one of the team’s most dynamic offensive threats last season, finishing with a team-best 12 goals and six assists, and figures to get some added help from his classmates this fall.
“Our expectation for this year is to be competing for the section title. We should at least be getting back to where we were last year with the conference championship,” McLachlan stated. They are returning eight of eleven starters from last year, a stellar defensive lineup and a hungry team. “This team is very competitive, even amongst themselves at practice. I sometimes have to reel them in at practices, but I would much rather it be that way than kicking them in the butt,” McLachlan said.
One of the biggest reasons McLachlan has so much confidence for this season and future seasons is because of the coaching staff at the JV and freshman levels. McLachlan said, “We’ve had a lot of success at the varsity level because we are being pushed by our JV levels. JV development has definitely been the reason for success at the varsity level.”
With a group of 12 seniors graduating and no juniors currently rostered, a good JV development program is vitally important for the near future. However, the McLachlan and his team are focusing on the season that lays ahead. With a solid returning lineup and a head coach with 18 years of experience, the 2017 soccer season is already shaping up to be a good one.
Jakob Kounkel is a freelance reporter for the Monticello Times